'People need it': Group protests raids on Saint John pot shops

About 20 people rallied outside Saint John City Hall on Saturday to protest police raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Medical marijuana users say dispensaries allow them to get their medication more conveniently

About 20 people protested outside Saint John City Hall on Saturday, saying medical marijuana dispensaries are needed in the city. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

About 20 people rallied outside Saint John City Hall on Saturday to protest police raids on medical marijuana dispensaries.

"It's just like closing down some pharmacies, right?" said the rally organizer who identified herself as Mars Aubrey.

"People need it and if there's not anywhere to get it, then where are they going to go?"

Twelve people were charged after police raided six dispensaries in Saint John last month.

Saint John Police kept a close eye on the protesters Saturday. No arrests were made. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Aubrey said a lot of people, including herself, didn't realize the dispensaries were operating illegally. Though police have said publicly the dispensaries were operating illegally, Aubrey said it was "deceiving" to let them open and do business for months before shutting them down.

If they raid us again, we'll take it from there.- Bowe Merchant, on reopening HBB Medical Inc.

"If you have a bunch of stores around the city and nobody's doing anything and they're saying they're legal dispensaries, I mean as the public, it's kind of deceiving."

The federal government has announced plans to legalize marijuana this spring, but the sale of the drug remains illegal under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act unless it's from a licensed dealer.

One woman at the rally said closing a medical marijuana dispensary is like closing a pharmacy. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Joanne Richard, who uses marijuana to relieve pain and inflammation in her spine, said waiting for her medication to arrive from a licensed operator is not always convenient — especially when the postal service is interrupted by storms like the ones last week.

"It's important that we have the right to access our medication where we want," she said, taking a bite out of a whoopie pie laced with marijuana.

Raided store reopened

Richard said if people had trouble accessing other types of prescribed medication, "every politician would be jumping about it."

Bowe Merchant is trying to do something about it. His father and three employees were arrested when police raided their dispensary HBB Medical Inc., but he reopened the store two weeks ago.

"If they raid us again, we'll take it from there," he said. "It's uncertain, but we'll just take it day by day and just hope for the best because we are here for the people."

With files from Matthew Bingley